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NOVA HORLEY’S REVIEW OF THE YEAR  2018 for The Luton News


As always, a big thank you to all the local societies who make John and I so welcome to their productions.  This year we’ve seen some super shows, all of which make it difficult to decide on winners in the various categories.


It takes a while to go through 12 months of reviews to see who and what really impressed me, but I enjoy doing it, as it invokes so many good memories.


Musical of the Year must go to Dunstable Musical Theatre Company for their production of Spamalot.  This was a stand out piece on all fronts, well-acted, sung and good technically too.  My runners up are The Matchgirls from St Andrew’s Players, and Rent from Griffin Players, they achieved a good standard both technically and performance-wise with fairly low key musicals that engaged the mind and the senses.


Youth productions are always a joy to see, and one hopes that the youngsters we see will go on to perform as adults in the local Societies.  Stage 1 gave us a charming pantomime, and win my Junior Production prize this year for Aladdin & His Wonderful Lamp, the youngsters projected well, give good characterisations, with the production benefitting from excellent costumes.  Parkfields School production of Singin’ In the Rain came a close second.  This was a challenge, but one that was met by the performers, they threw themselves into the show, which was very enjoyable.


The Award for Play of the Year goes to Dunstable Rep for The Thrill of Love, beautifully acted and technically excellent – a worthy winner.  Runners Up are TADS for their production of Accrington Pals, a telling piece, technically good as well as good performances, and Dunstable Rep for Happy Jack, I wasn’t sold on the set, but the acting and other technicals made this another stand out production.


My Pantomime of the Year goes to Griffin Players for Beauty and the Beast – visually good, with some excellent performances and costumes, making it a super all round experience, and everything a panto should be.  


MD of the Year goes again to Tom Arnold for his super work on Annie for Phoenix Players – Tom is a great example of a young man making the most of his opportunities, and fulfilling them to a high standard.  Runners Up are Beth Thomas for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, a difficult score but sensitively realised, giving the cast plenty of scope for expression, with a good accompanying duo, and James Driver for Rent, a difficult score well-interpreted.  We are blessed with a plethora of excellent MD’s in this area, all of whom have performed to a high standard, so thank you all.


My Young Performer of the Year – well where do I start – a number of young people have made their mark, including Nathaniel Chatterley in TADS Accrington Pals, Emily Albert in Phoenix Players Annie, Olivia Lynn in Griffins Players Beauty & the Beast and Charlotte Lovelock in St Andrew’s Players The Matchgirls.  Unfair to award one over the other as they all excelled on different levels, and I hope we continue to see the youth of the area giving such accomplished performances.  I was also pleased to see that Vita Artes continues to go from strength to strength, their concept of giving youngsters a chance whatever their circumstances is a good one, and I hope they continue to flourish.


Best Actress in a Play is Grace Reinhold-Gittins as Ruth Ellis in Dunstable Rep’s The Thrill of Love, I thought she got the essence of the woman so well, without over-playing her.  Very close Runners Up are Julia Fraser for Mary and Liz Blower for Teresa in Memory of Water from Dunstable Rep – they both gave dominant and well-crafted portrayals.


Best Actor in a Play is Joe Hawkins as Ralph in Accrington Pals, although at little too exuberant at times, Joe gave a good all round performance.  Joe also gave a good performance in A Perfect Wedding.  My Runner Up is Adam Butcher as Will, also in A Perfect Wedding, a good all round performance.


Best Performance in a Musical is Paul Ramsey as King Arthur in DMTC’s production of Spamalot, an excellent performance on all levels.  Runners Up are Aimee McCulloch for her interpretation of Joanne in Rent for Griffin Players, Shayn Dickens for his angst-ridden Henrik in Putteridge Bury Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of A Little Night Music, and from the same production,  Paula Fraser as Desiree and Rachel Thomas as Madame Leonora, both giving well-crafted characterisations.


For Choreography – my Award goes to Chloe Badham for Rent with Griffin Players.  Very different choreography that impressed.


Best Ensemble in a Play or Musical goes to Adam Butcher, Katy Elliott and Sarah Wilkinson for Teechers at Dunstable Rep, fast paced and slick, they all performed well.  Runners Up - Joe Butcher and Jenna Ryder-Oliver for their sensitive performances in Happy Jack for Dunstable Rep, and the cast of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – John O’Leary, Jenna Ryder-Oliver, Richard Alexander, Emma Orr, Steve Peters and Jo Yirrell – all excellent performances, for St Andrew’s Players.


Best Comedy Performance in a Musical (and I never thought I’d say this) is Peter Carter Brown– we have seen him give us many good dramatic performances, but this was a departure for him that really paid off, and showed off good musical skills as well! Runner Up is Simon Rollings for Lancelot, a good all-round portrayal – both for DMTC’s production of Spamalot.


Best Director is shared between Malcolm Farrar for The Matchgirls and Frances Hall for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, both for St Andrew’s Players – very different pieces, both directed to perfection with excellent casts.  Runner Up is Adam Croft for The Thrill of Love from Dunstable Rep, difficult subject matter handled with expertise.  I would also like to mention Jenna Kay, who impressed with her first production for TADS, Accrington Pals.


My Technical Award this year goes Griffin Players for Beauty and the Beast, excellent on all levels, well-designed set, super lighting and good costumes, very well-achieved.


As always, we appreciate the time and hard work that goes into getting a production on, and continue to enjoy all your shows as much as ever.  The technical aspects are always good, sometimes outstanding, which enhances a production.


I hope all of you who read our show reviews and support our local Societies will continue to do so – they all work so hard to entertain and give us productions often worthy of a professional company, and that is what makes amateur theatre such a thrilling and exciting hobby to participate in.

Review of the year 2018

Luton News

By Nova Horley

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